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Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:26 PM

I need something explained

At the Mueller hearing yesterday Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas made a big deal about the report claiming that it could not exonerate Trump.

From the Mueller report:
“The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred,” Mueller wrote. “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”


Ratcliffe then said:
“Respectfully, director, it was not the special counsel’s job to conclusively determine Donald Trump’s innocence or to exonerate him because the bedrock principle of our justice system is a presumption of innocence,” Ratcliffe said, raising his voice. “It exists for everyone. Everyone is entitled to it — including sitting presidents.”

My question is this:
Does an investigation, which is what the Mueller report is documentation of, necessarily have to presume innocence? An investigation is not a trial. In a trial the presumption of innocence is, and always should be an important principle. But, an investigation is merely the collecting of evidence. In fact, I would contend that suspicion of guilt is the starting point of every criminal investigation. Investigations involve suspects, intent, motives, evidence and such. If every investigation into a possible crime started with the idea that a person was innocent until proven guilty, then there would never be an investigation of any crime, ever. Just asking.

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 11 replies Author Time Post
Reply I need something explained (Original post)
Ohioboy Jul 25 OP
Groundhawg Jul 25 #1
StarfishSaver Jul 25 #2
jberryhill Jul 25 #4
StarfishSaver Jul 25 #10
jberryhill Jul 25 #3
Ohioboy Jul 25 #5
StarfishSaver Jul 25 #8
WheelWalker Jul 25 #9
Hoyt Jul 25 #6
marble falls Jul 25 #7
fleabiscuit Jul 25 #11

Response to Ohioboy (Original post)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:30 PM

1. I don't think so. At that level extra scrutiny is warranted.

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Response to Ohioboy (Original post)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:34 PM

2. Great question!

No, generally, investigators aren't required to presume innocence. However, they must approach the investigation fairly without making assumptions about guilt that could taint or skew their findings.

And different kinds of investigations may have different starting points and goals, depending on the nature. Police investigating a murder when a suspect is in custody are likely to focus on finding evidence that supports guilt rather than digging and digging to uncover every piece of evidence they can find. On the other hand, an investigation into Russian interference isn't likely to focus as much on the "guilt" of a particular individual as on a broader uncovering of what happened and who was involved.

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Response to StarfishSaver (Reply #2)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:37 PM

4. Investigators can assume anything they want


If they have a reasonable suspicion, they can briefly detain a suspect. If they have probable cause, they can arrest a suspect.

If a cop sees me shoot you on the sidewalk in broad daylight, that cop doesn't have to avoid "presuming" jack squat - he saw me shoot you.

The "presumption of innocence" is merely a statement of who has the burden of proof at trial. It is not a statement of what anyone is required to think or believe in the process of investigating a crime.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #4)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:45 PM

10. That's exactly my point

But a congressional investigation such as the Russia probe has a different starting point than a criminal investigation - largely because the purpose of such an investigation is to determine what happened, not to prove a particular person committed a particular crime

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Response to Ohioboy (Original post)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:34 PM

3. Of course not

All the "presumption of innocence" does, is to establish which side has the burden of proof at trial.

In law, there are all sorts of "presumptions".

Patents are presumed valid, and must be shown by clear and convincing evidence to be invalid.

Children born into a marriage are presumed to be the child of that couple.

Etc.

Presumptions are merely starting points which establish who must prove what.

Quite flipping obviously, in a trial, the prosecutor walks in and gives an opening statement to the jury that says, "This sumbitch is guilty and I'm going to prove it."

It is the prosecutor's JOB to presume (in the colloquial sense) that the accused is guilty.

It is furthermore the prosecutor's JOB to prove that to the jury.

If the prosecutor didn't walk in believing the accused was guilty, then not much of anything is going to happen in the trial.

It is the most misunderstood principle of criminal law, bar none.

You, me, and anyone else is allowed to presume anybody is guilty of anything - and pretty much all of them are!

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #3)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:39 PM

5. Thank you

I don't feel so stupid asking the question. But apparently the Rep from Texas thinks he made an important point with his little speech yesterday, and a lot of Trump supporters are running with it. Even Trey Gowdy, who is supposed to be some excellent prosecutor, was on TV telling everyone how he would have hammered the idea if he had been questioning Mueller.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #3)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:41 PM

8. Nice explanation

As you said, everyone involved in a case is not required to presume innocence and some, like the prosecutor, are expected to presume guilt or the whole process makes no sense. I would add that it's really only the fact finder who is expected to presume innocence until the burden of proof is overcome by the party trying to prove guilt.

But, as you said, The notion of presumption of innocence is so widely misapplied to the point that even casual observers are expected to presume innocence when anyone beyond the fact finder is perfectly within their right to presume whatever they like

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #3)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:43 PM

9. Well said.

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Response to Ohioboy (Original post)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:40 PM

6. Dip Ratcliffe was just continuing lie that investigation was witch hunt out to get trump.

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Response to Ohioboy (Original post)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 05:41 PM

7. The conclussion is where the proponderance of evidence leads. This leads to ...

indictment if the evidence warrants it (impeachment by the House) and then a trial with the evidence (impeachment by the Senate).

Its part of the process but other things can happen, too, like an indictment and prosecution by prosecutors in jurisdictions where the crimes happened. Trump is not off the hook just because the Senate may drag its feet.

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Response to Ohioboy (Original post)

Thu Jul 25, 2019, 06:37 PM

11. The house doesn't need any evidence of any sort if they want to impeach.

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